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With all the tasty, nutritious stuff in nature, why do gnats bug us?
by Dan Brawner Columnist · May 25th, 2017

I was working outside yesterday, enjoying the beautiful clear spring weather, when suddenly a cloud appeared overhead. It was a small cloud, but it was my own personal cloud. And, instead of rain, it was full of gnats.

I had never seen so many gnats in one place. There were so many of the tiny creatures that I could hardly see through them. I was afraid to inhale for fear of aspirating a dozen or so at one time. I tried to shoo them away, but it was like trying to shoo away fog. The cloud of gnats only filled in behind my hand. They flew in my eyes, my nose, my mouth. They got into my ears and buzzed furiously, insanely. I tried to walk away from them, I waved my arms, I blew at them, I yelled, I pleaded. But the gnats would not be denied. What did they want from me? When I finally got home, I looked up why gnats fly in your face. And you're not going to like the answer.

It's because - not to put too fine a point on it - we're gross. It seems gnats are attracted to our smells. They like our sweat, which promises them a rich source of salt. That's also why they go for your eyes. They aim for the tear ducts and sometimes, in their blind eagerness, they get stuck in your eye and spend the remainder of their short lives, squirming in the deadly luxury of your briny tears.

Gnats also like carbon dioxide and anything that smells of decay, like bad breath. Sure, you don't think you have bad breath. But to something the size of a poppy seed, your mouth is a volcano of bad breath - and they want it so bad they can taste it.

Even though we may not like gnats, other gnats like gnats. As "social" creatures, gnats hang out in crowds. Bug scientists tell us that gnats want to keep their group together, so they pick a landmark, often something tall they can focus on - like a human being. To a gnat, a person is like the hottest singles bar - where there is always plenty of free food and drink, it's easy to find and it's a great place to hook up. Yes, that's right. Your mucus, halitosis, earwax, sebaceous glands and boogers get gnats in the mood for love. Just thinking about it makes me feel used.

Even though we can never defeat gnats, we can, at least, make ourselves less attractive to them. Avoid shampoos, body wash or perfume with "herbal" scent. To a gnat, it smells like a yummy meal of rotting fruit. Use scent-free laundry detergents and fabric softeners. When you pull a t-shirt over your head, the smell sticks to your face and hair and acts like a dinner bell to the tiny vermin.

It's not that I begrudge gnats a little earwax. I just don't like them "dating" in my ear.
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